In the TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm clubhouse, photos of all the past champions of the former Kemper Open adorn one white wall, a quick right-hand turn past the pro shop. There, members can remember the PGA Tour stop that called the course home for nearly two decades.
Since the tournament ended in 2006, the course has hosted just one professional event, but that changes this week with the newly christened Web.com Tour’s visit. After two years at the University of Maryland, the PGA Tour’s feeder circuit begins its run at the former TPC Avenel with the Neediest Kids Championship, which opens Thursday.
“It was nice having it at Maryland, but I think this move helps take [the tournament] to the next level,” said Web.com Tour President Bill Calfee, a Maryland graduate. “I think bringing it to a facility like this has a certain cache to it. The perception of the event, I think, is certainly raised.”
The partnership should benefit both sides. The course, which underwent a nearly $25 million renovation from 2007 to 2009, will be showcased for the first time since the 2010 Senior Players Championship.
The current agreement will keep the Web.com tournament at the Potomac track for three years, and the event might serve as a dry run to see if it could again host the PGA Tour.
The Tiger Woods-hosted AT&T National has been held at neighboring Congressional Country Club since 2007, except for a two-year break as it prepared to host the 2011 U.S. Open. Congressional has a contract to host the AT&T National for the next two years, and the club’s membership will vote after next year’s event as to whether to pick up a three-year option to keep it there through 2017.
If Congressional declines the option, TPC Potomac — which is owned by the PGA Tour — could step back into the picture.
“It’s not just us alone saying we’ll do it,” General Manager Mike Sullivan said of hosting a PGA Tour event, “but if everybody got on the same page, we’d definitely be excited about being able to do that.”
The collection of past Kemper Open champion pictures includes one of Lee Janzen – staring down an iron shot in a dated blue polo shirt — during the 1995 tournament that concluded with his playoff victory over Corey Pavin.
Janzen, now 48, will be in the 144-player field this week, hoping to work his way back to full-time status on the PGA Tour. Patrick Cantlay — a 20-year-old who finished in the top 25 of four PGA Tour events last year as an amateur — and former PGA Tour winners Jason Gore, Woody Austin and Paul Stankowski will also be in action.
“When the course got redone, they made so many improvements – the look, the challenge, the design, everything,” said Janzen, who first played the redesigned course three years ago before participating in the AT&T National. “Everybody that plays it has nothing but great things to say about it. Knowing that, plus it’s a TPC course, we ought to be playing a tournament here.”
Tournament director Teo Sodeman said he received a flood of text messages from players when the new venue was announced in January. The event had been held in June, but Sodeman said the move back four months helps reduce competition with the AT&T National and also gives a more favorable position on the tour schedule as players try to finish in the top 25 of the money list and clinch their PGA Tour card.
“When we started we had nothing – no sponsors, no volunteers, no anything,” Sodeman said. “We’ve been able to build it. . . . Now we’ve taken a pretty large step up coming over here, and we’re looking forward to continuing to build.”